updated 4/13/2005 12:25:17 PM ET 2005-04-13T16:25:17

Guest:  Jim Thomas, Mercedes Colwin, Susan Filan, John Wampler, Bill Martin, Lloyd Duplantis, Dr. Bernadine Healy

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, were jurors in the Michael Jackson case mocking the testimony of the latest accuser to take the stand? 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Jurors reportedly heard joking about the 24-year-old who testified that Jackson molested him as a child.  Is that enough to get them removed from the case or for a mistrial?  And did it really happen? 

And a convicted killer tracked down 11 years after he escaped from prison with the deputy warden‘s wife.  She says she stayed with him all this time because she was afraid he‘d hurt her family. 

Plus, O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, just a few of the defendants attending the funeral of Johnnie Cochran. 

The program about justice starts now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, big news out of the Michael Jackson case, news that if true could mean big trouble for the case.  During a court break on Monday, at least one, maybe as many as three, members of the media allegedly overheard something from the patio outside the jury room, a conversation that seems to have been between jurors where they were mocking a crucial witness in the case against Jackson.  The 23-year-old man who said Michael Jackson molested him starting when he was just 7 years old. 

Former Santa Barbara sheriff Jim Thomas joins me now with the details. 

Jim, you heard this one right from the source.  What do you know? 

JIM THOMAS, FORMER SANTA BARBARA SHERIFF:  Well, Dan, let me tell you what I know ask and I think it‘s important that we keep it at what I know because rumors are really going rampant here, but on Monday after court I was—I learned that a person had said that he had heard jurors joking about the victim who had testified on Monday, which was the victim from 1993.  I went and talked to that individual. 

He indeed said that, as he walked by the jury assembly area—and if you can look behind me, you‘ll see a green fence.  That is an area that is outside the jury room that the jurors are allowed to congregate in and it is basically a wire fence with a little covering.  You cannot see the jurors there, but if you walk by you can hear them and I have heard them before. 

Anyway, this person who is a crew member for one of the British broadcasting people, Sky News, said that as he walked by one of the jurors was saying something to the effect of “(UNINTELLIGIBLE) he touched me or boohoo he touched me” and that was coincidental only because that was right after the testimony by that young accuser where he had broken down when he was talking about the alleged molestation.  After that, court was over.  The next morning I talked with the pool coordinator, Peter Shaplen, advised him of what I knew, pointed out the individual who knew it, I know that he talked to him, and at that point that‘s about where we know. 

ABRAMS:  And Jim, there is no investigation of this as far as we know, correct? 

THOMAS:  Well, I don‘t know that there is no investigation.  We‘re being told by the court that this is an unsubstantiated rumor and that there is no investigation, and from my background, frankly, Dan, I have a little problem with that, because you can‘t come to the conclusion of something being unsubstantiated unless you first investigate it.  I‘m hoping that they‘re telling us that, but that in actuality there is an investigation going on. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jim, stick around because here is what the pool producer has said. 

Quote—“Judge Melville is aware of the report.  It is an unsubstantiated rumor and there is no investigation.”  That‘s according to the court administration.

“My Take”—it‘s an unsubstantiated rumor because no one‘s taken the time to investigate it.  There is too much at stake here and this is an issue that‘s too important to ignore.  Joining me now is criminal defense attorney Mercedes Colwin and Connecticut state prosecutor Susan Filan.

All right.  Mercedes, first to you, this is a I think huge—if it‘s

·         I mean if this is even possible that jurors are already mocking one of the key prosecution witnesses, they have to investigate, right? 

     

MERCEDES COLWIN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  They should, but Dan, so many jurors joke around.  It‘s not like they‘re sitting around saying oh, Michael Jackson is a pedophile or you know he definitely molested this man.  I mean they‘re joking around.  This is stress relief for these jurors.  They‘re sitting there bored out of their tears.  They‘re there for six, seven hours and...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

COLWIN:  ... stoic, listening, and this is how they relieve stress. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

COLWIN:  I mean that‘s what jurors do...

ABRAMS:  That‘s a nice psychological...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  That‘s a nice psychological analysis of the jurors, but the bottom line is, Susan Filan, if they made these comments, if it‘s true that they were sort of saying, “(UNINTELLIGIBLE) Michael Jackson touched me” those jurors are gone from the case. 

SUSAN FILAN, CONNECTICUT STATE PROSECUTOR:  It would seem to me that the judge would ask the lawyers into chambers and ask them what‘s your pleasure?  Do you make any application before the court?  Do you have any motion?  Do you wish for any investigation?  My guess is that that happened and based on everyone‘s talking—because don‘t forget there is a lot of strategy involved. 

Let‘s say there is an investigation and let‘s say somebody moves for a mistrial.  Is that in the prosecution‘s best interest?  Is this case going to get any better for them the second time around? 

ABRAMS:  Right.

FILAN:  Perhaps the defense is quite happy with where things are and also doesn‘t want a mistrial.  And the other thing I wonder if the state is asking themselves has jeopardy attached, are we in trouble there, do we just need to press forward? 

COLWIN:  One other thing, too, Dan, what the judge can do is they can step forward and do a curative instruction, simply say to these jurors “I don‘t want any discussion regarding any testimony in this trial.  I have said this to you early on in the—during the opening statements, I‘m going to say it again...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

COLWIN:  ... and I‘m going to remind you when the need arises”...

(CROSSTALK)

COLWIN:  ... and that‘s how they deal with it.

ABRAMS:  Jim, as a former law enforcement official, is it possible they‘re just not telling us there is an investigation and that maybe there is one? 

THOMAS:  Oh, that‘s certainly possible.  Dan, I‘m certain that the gentleman who told me what he heard is what he heard.  However, that could be misconstrued.  They could have been saying (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about something else...

ABRAMS:  Right.

THOMAS:  ... and not Michael Jackson, so there is a possibility that the comments that were made were not directed toward that witness.  We have to keep that possibility in mind as well. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Look, we‘re going to stay on top of this.  If we get any news on this as to what‘s happening with this jury any developments, anything else we‘ll bring it to you. 

I want to talk about something else, and this is just out, the first time I‘m going to be able to report this to you, this is an NBC News poll that has just been released that I think is somewhat stunning.  Let me read you the question they were asked.  I‘m going to read you the names of several public figures and I‘d like you to rate your feelings towards each one as either very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative or very negative.  If you don‘t know the name, please just say so. 

Michael Jackson:  Very positive got one percent, one percent; somewhat positive, four percent for a total of five percent on the positive side; neutral, 19 percent; somewhat negative 16, very negative 56 for a total of 72 percent negative. 

Keep in mind this negative poll number is close to what Saddam Hussein got in 1991 when he got three percent positive.  I think—you got to be worried about that, Mercedes, if this is your client and there is a poll that says that only one percent of the public has a very positive impression of Michael Jackson right now. 

COLWIN:  I would worry, but I have to say that these jurors are going to take this very seriously when they deliberate on the evidence that‘s before them.  And that‘s what they have to do.  They have to stay impartial.  They have to sort of put themselves in this microcosm and make a decision based on the evidence. 

It‘s going to be difficult.  Remember...

(CROSSTALK)

COLWIN:  ... you had these statistics...

(CROSSTALK)

COLWIN:  ... on Scott...

(CROSSTALK)

COLWIN:  ... Dan, that had 80 percent of America feeling that he was guilty.  Lo and behold, he was...

ABRAMS:  Well...

COLWIN:  ... he obviously was found guilty. 

ABRAMS:  ... that‘s because the evidence...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... was against him but this is just about whether you have a positive impression of the guy.  I mean, look, a lot of people out there think Michael Jackson‘s not guilty.  I think that if they took another poll, I don‘t know, I think a lot of people would say I‘m not convinced that he‘s guilty, but one percent?  A pop star has one percent of people in the country saying they view him very positively? 

COLWIN:  I think it‘s scary.  The other thing, Dan, a lot of people that I have talked to can‘t listen to Michael Jackson‘s music anymore, and these are folks that all grew up when I did, the ‘60‘s and ‘70‘s on the Jackson Five and Michael Jackson, “Thriller” and “Beat It” and all of those, they can‘t listen to it now because they‘re so upset as to these allegations. 

FILAN:  Dan, and I also think that perhaps the public‘s perception is here is another case with a high-profile defendant, the state is doing everything it can to put its best evidence forward and it may not be able to sustain its burden of proof and that may be attributing to some of the very negative feelings about Michael Jackson.  In other words, where there is smoke there is fire, we know he did it but he‘s going to get off, there is going to be another acquittal. 

ABRAMS:  Maybe.  Look, I‘m not even that surprised by, you know, I don‘t know, something in the ‘50‘s saying very negative, whatever, but one percent—this guy is an international star and one percent of the public is saying that they have a very positive impression of Michael Jackson.  I‘ll tell you, if I were his lawyers, and you‘re right, this isn‘t in the courtroom and presumably this won‘t have an impact on this case, but I would be concerned, because I‘m stunned by these numbers, absolutely stunned.  Jim Thomas, final thought on this.

THOMAS:  Well, I think the D.A. would probably like to see those numbers and probably would like to claim some credit.  Basically, I think the presentation of the pornographic material and the issue of the alcohol has had a bad effect on Michael Jackson. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Mercedes Colwin, Susan Filan, Jim Thomas, thanks a lot. 

Coming up, police finally track down a convicted killer nearly 11 years after he escaped from prison, get this, with the deputy warden‘s wife.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) talk about payback.  She stayed with him all this time.  She says she was afraid he‘d hurt her family if she tried to escape.  I‘m going to ask the D.A. if that makes any sense.

And activist pharmacists refusing to give out birth control pills to women with prescriptions because they don‘t believe in contraception—shouldn‘t they think about finding another line of work?  We‘ll talk to a pharmacist who says it‘s his right to refuse. 

Plus, O.J.‘s back in L.A.—searching for the real killer?  (unintelligible) he‘s paying tribute to Johnnie Cochran whose funeral was today. 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a convicted killer tracked down after 11 years on the run, found living with the deputy warden‘s wife.  Why did she stay with him all that time? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  A prison escape with a bizarre twist—Randolph Dial, a convicted killer serving a life sentence, escaped from prison with the deputy warden‘s wife and spent nearly 11 years living with her in his mobile home in Texas.  She worked on a nearby chicken farm.  The couple lived quietly, going largely unnoticed.  Dial even ventured out to Oklahoma City once to attend a book signing of a book about his disappearance.  The book‘s author didn‘t even recognize him.  Just this week the couple was found and Bobbi Parker was reunited with her husband. 

NBC‘s Jim Cummins has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM CUMMINS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  He was a sculptor and a painter but Randolph Dial was also a convicted murderer, 13 years into a life sentence at an Oklahoma State Prison Dial was awarded trustee status for good behavior.  His new privilege, run an inmate pottery program with Bobbi Parker, the young wife of Deputy Warden Randy Parker.  In August 1994, trustee Dial was working in Bobbi Parker‘s garage when the two of them disappeared without a trace.  Police assumed Bobbi had been kidnapped.  A year later her husband was still distraught. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When I go to bed at night, I never quit thinking about Bobbi, ever. 

CUMMINS:  The two of them had gone missing for almost 11 years before police caught up with Dial in east Texas following a tip from the TV show “America‘s Most Wanted”.  Bobbi Parker was also found alive and OK. 

SALVATORE HERNANDEZ, FBI SPECIAL AGENT:  They found him there and they found Bobbi Parker a short time later working at a nearby chicken farm. 

CUMMINS:  She told police she stayed with Dial all this time out of fear for her family.  The FBI believes her. 

HERNANDEZ:  It appears now that this was in fact a true kidnapping and that she was being held against her will for this period, that he had used some psychological persuasion on her to ensure that she stayed there. 

CUMMINS:  Today, Bobbi Parker is back with her family, convicted murderer Randolph Dial is headed back to prison. 

Jim Cummings, NBC News, Dallas. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  “My Take”—boy, it is just hard—it‘s just hard to accept that a woman goes to work, leaves the house, et cetera, for 11 years, she actually made a couple of phone calls, never said, “oh, I need help, I need help” all against her will.  But you know look, we‘ll ask John Wampler, the district attorney for Greer County, Oklahoma where the prison escape occurred. 

Mr. Wampler, thank you very much for coming on the program.  I appreciate it.  Before we get to...

JOHN WAMPLER, GREER COUNTY, OK DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  You bet.

ABRAMS:  ... to that issue, let me just ask you about the capture.  So explain to me what happened.  Someone sees this on “America‘s Most Wanted”, says I know that guy and that‘s it? 

WAMPLER:  That‘s my understanding.  There was an individual that apparently was a regular watcher of that show that had observed the show involving Mr. Dial and went to the Orange County District Attorney‘s office in Texas and informed them that he thought he was either working with him or knew who he was, knew where he was at or something along those lines, but anyway, he‘s the one that started the process that led to his capture. 

ABRAMS:  And there is no case to now bring against him, right?  I mean, he was a convicted murderer serving time and he escaped.  He‘s just going to go back, right? 

WAMPLER:  Yes.  In fact, he‘s in custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections at this time.  I believe they went down there last night sometime and picked him up and he‘s now at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Mr. Wampler, if you could stay with us for a minute because when we come back, I want to ask you if you buy Bobbi Parker‘s story that she stayed with Dial for 11 years just because she was afraid that he might hurt her family, more than a decade that they spent together. 

And O.J. Simpson joins thousands to remember his lawyer, my friend, Johnnie Cochran.  Funeral was today.  Memorial service...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  We‘re talking about this amazing case out of Oklahoma.  Randolph Dial serving a life sentence for murder.  He escapes with the deputy prison warden‘s wife.  He eludes authorities for almost 11 years.  They lived together in a mobile home off a dirt road in Texas.  This week, authorities tracked them down, and Bobbi Parker was reunited with her husband.  She says she stayed with him out of fear for her life as well as her family‘s. 

Back with me is John Wampler, the district attorney for Greer County, Oklahoma.  All right.  Do you buy this?  I mean do you buy the idea that for 11 years she just couldn‘t escape? 

WAMPLER:  Well, I‘ll give you that it‘s difficult for people to believe that—I mean the fact that she apparently went into town and bought groceries and cashed checks and did things like that, it‘s difficult for most people, including myself, you know, to understand why, when you have an opportunity to turn him in or to escape from him that you would not do that, but by the same token, I have not walked in her shoes.  I don‘t know what all she went through, what kind of fear tactics, what all he told her to scare her and to cause her to think that her family would be in danger if she was to attempt anything like that. 

ABRAMS:  Here is what a store manager said who saw her. 

She didn‘t seem like she was in no fear for her life or anything like that.  She didn‘t slip me a note to call the sheriff or anything.  And here‘s what Randolph Dial said about this.  She was living under the impression if she ever tried to get away I would get away, and I would make her regret it, particularly toward her family.  I didn‘t mean it, but she didn‘t know that.

I mean it sure sounds like he‘s trying to protect her in a way.

WAMPLER:  Well, I don‘t know.  He apparently had told her or had her convinced that he had connections to the mob, and that even if he went back to prison he would have some means or some way of getting to her, and getting to her family and her two children, and whether she believed that or not, you know, I don‘t know at this point, but in the original case that he was serving time for, the murder case in 1981, he claimed to have committed that murder for hire as a result of the mob wanting this person killed. 

Now, I don‘t think the investigators believe that or found any evidence of that, but that was his claim.  So if she—in addition to what he was telling her while she was being held captive, knew about this earlier case and the connection—supposed connections to the mob, then, you know, there is no telling what kind of fear and concerns that she had. 

ABRAMS:  Is she being investigated or is this now done? 

WAMPLER:  No, it‘s not done.  It‘s still being investigated.  There‘s a lot of loose ends to be tied up.  I still do not have at this time a copy of any of the case reports from either the FBI, that was initially handled the case, from the time of the escape up until the current time, and I have not seen any of the statements or reports from the agents that were involved in the capture of Mr. Dial, so there is a lot still remaining to be done. 

I have asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to put all of this information together for me and to go and do some further interviews and to bring me a report, and when I get that report then we‘ll look at it, we‘ll determine whether or not any further charges are warranted...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

WAMPLER:  ... whether kidnapping charges will be filed against Mr.  Dial or if possibly a charge could be filed against her.  I have nothing at this time to indicate that she would be subject to any charges, but I am not going to rule out anything until I see the report. 

ABRAMS:  John Wampler, thanks very much for coming on the program. 

Appreciate it. 

WAMPLER:  You‘re welcome. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, why are some pharmacists allowed to refuse to provide prescribed birth control?  We talk to a pharmacist who says he‘d do just that.  Should pharmacists be permitted to let their religious beliefs dictate what drugs to provide? 

Plus, O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, P. Diddy join Johnnie Cochran‘s other clients and thousands of friends to say goodbye to a legal great. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Imagine going to the pharmacy to get a birth control prescription filled, only be told by the pharmacist won‘t do it because I don‘t believe in contraception.  Can they do that?  First the headlines.

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  There was a very moving quote—“service of memory” for my friend Johnnie Cochran today at the West Los Angeles Cathedral, among the celebrity clients who walked past the cameras before joining Johnnie‘s family and friends, Michael Jackson who had the day off from his molestation trial.  Johnnie represented him in a similar case that ended with a settlement.  The man whose name who will always be linked with Johnnie Cochran‘s, O.J. Simpson on a rare return to Los Angeles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O.J. SIMPSON, JOHNNIE COCHRAN‘S CLIENT:  Johnnie was a friend first.  As I said, I met him long before my ordeal, and he was just a good friend and a good Christian man and a great lawyer.  Johnnie was there because I thought he would reflect me to the jury better than anybody else could and obviously he was very successful at that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But as I said before, Johnnie Cochran was much more than the leader of the dream team that miraculously won O.J. Simpson‘s acquittal as we heard through tears, cheers, and laughter at the service today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Johnnie was the tallest tree in our legal forest.  He was great before he was famous.  But Johnnie was the David who slew Goliath.  The biblical David slew one Goliath, but Johnnie slew Goliaths over and over and over again. 

SEAN “PUFFY” COMBS, MUSICIAN:  I didn‘t mean to get myself in the situation, you know, but—so I had one call and...

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

STAR JONES REYNOLDS, LEGAL ANALYST:  I know we all have our own egos about our skills, but please, come on, y‘all, the things Johnnie could do in a courtroom (UNINTELLIGIBLE) our colleagues wish on our very best day to just possess one of Johnnie‘s many everyday talents in the courtroom. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He was the life of the party, everywhere he went.  Nobody walked like he walked.  No man made carrying a purse look so cool. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He said, “The most important thing you will have at the end of a crisis is your behavior during it.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In all due respect to you, Brother Simpson, we didn‘t clap when the acquittal of Simpson came for O.J., we were clapping for Johnnie.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We were clapping because for decades, our brothers, our cousins, our uncles, had to stand in the well with no one to stand up for them.  And finally, a black man came and said, “If it don‘t fit...

(CHEERING)

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... you must acquit.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank God for you.  I‘m going to finish that album up, Johnnie, really quick.  I love you.  God bless you.

(MUSIC)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  “My Take”—I‘ve said it before.  I‘ll say it again.  Johnnie was a friend of mine.  He was one of the funniest, most easy-going and kind men I knew.  To be Johnnie Cochran and to be as humble as he was, was astounding.  I hope he‘s not only remembered as the lawyer who helped win an acquittal for a man most of us believe was very guilty. 

Billy Martin is an attorney and was a good friend of Johnnie Cochran.  They worked together on several cases including one involving heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe.  Billy was at the memorial service today.  Billy, thanks for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

BILL MARTIN, ATTORNEY & COCHRAN FRIEND:  Dan, it‘s good to see you and it was a great service. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, tell me a little bit more.  I mean give me a sense of sort of what the people there—how they were reacting, et cetera, what they were talking about when they weren‘t up at the podium. 

MARTIN:  Sure.  It really was a long service for a lot of people to remember Johnnie.  You know Johnnie was known—one of his early books was his “Journey for Justice”.  Johnnie was known, and many of the people spoke to the dignity and graciousness of Johnnie Cochran.  I think Reverend Al Sharpton summed it up when he said that all the support that came from the community for Johnnie Cochran during the O.J. Simpson trial was wishing Johnnie well, not cheering that O.J. had won.  People remember Johnnie‘s—

Johnnie Cochran a lot for O.J. Simpson but Johnnie was far, far more than that, Dan, and you know and people know that his graciousness, his dignity and actually his spirituality were there and people mourned and really celebrated the great life of Johnnie Cochran. 

ABRAMS:  Before I ask you about this comment by Reverend Sharpton, do you think that Johnnie is going to be remembered in five or 10 years from now beyond the O.J. Simpson case?  I sure hope he is.  Because—I mean look, he did a great job as a legal matter...

MARTIN:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  ... but you know as a practical matter those of us who watched the case and believed O.J. was guilty, you know it was—ended up resulting in a travesty of justice, I think, and as a result I hate to think that that would be the enduring memory.  He did so much more. 

MARTIN:  Dan, I don‘t think that that will be the enduring memory.  That will be one of the enduring memories because it was a trial that he was not expected to win and maybe should not have won but he won because he was Johnnie Cochran, and I would say that many people are comparing the legacy of Johnnie Cochran in this generation to the efforts of Thurgood Marshall in bringing dignity to African Americans as lawyers. 

He raised the level of our practice.  He helped us to know that we too can be recognized as great lawyers and not just great black lawyers.  I think his legacy will far, far exceed O.J. Simpson. 

ABRAMS:  Billy, if you were to ask him honestly, not on camera, behind the scenes, you would say, Johnnie, you were so well respected, well regarded, you were—you know was on the cover of “The American Lawyer” before any of this happened...

MARTIN:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  ... do you think that he‘s sorry he took the Simpson case? 

MARTIN:  I don‘t think he‘s sorry, because one of the things that really came through during the service was that Johnnie took on cases that really wanted to put the system on trial.  Geronimo Pratt was there.  That was not a popular case for Johnnie, but it was a cause that Johnnie believed in.  That was proving the innocence of a man who was not guilty of what he had been convicted of.

I think that Johnnie would say to you all the unpopular cases that you know of there are hundreds, if not thousands more of poor people, people who had no big names that he did the same for.  He would smile and say I‘m glad I did what I—that was what I did.  He would be quite happy with his history. 

ABRAMS:  Johnnie Cochran, I‘ll miss you.  Sorry I wasn‘t able to make it out to the funeral service. 

MARTIN:  Dan, I can tell you that I have seen you and Johnnie—I saw you and Johnnie during O.J. and you do know how great a friend he was...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

MARTIN:  ... and how much charm, how much positivity he brought to whatever it was that he did. 

ABRAMS:  Billy, good to see you.  Thanks for coming on the program.

MARTIN:  Thanks Dan.  You‘re welcome.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Coming up, activist pharmacists refusing to give out birth control pills to women with prescriptions because they don‘t believe in contraception.  We talk to a pharmacist who says it‘s his right to refuse. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  Women across the country facing a new problem.  They walk into a pharmacy carrying a doctor‘s prescription for a legally approved drug, they‘re confronted by, for a lack of a better term, an activist pharmacist, pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for drugs like birth control or the morning-after pill because they believe that dispensing those drugs violates their moral, religious or personal beliefs.  In some cases apparently they‘re even lecturing the women asking for the pills. 

There is even a growing movement among some of those pharmacists for so-called conscience clauses, essentially the right to refuse to fill certain prescriptions that they say they‘re too uncomfortable to prescribe.  We‘re going to talk to a pharmacist in a moment who refuses to sell birth control in his pharmacy, but first NBC‘s Kevin Tibbles has more on this debate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Like millions of American women, Suzanne Richards uses birth control...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this way.

TIBBLES:  ... but when the 21-year-old single mother went to have her Plan B contraceptive prescription filled, the pharmacist in her hometown of Laconia, New Hampshire refused. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He thought it was wrong and he thought it was wrong of me taking the pill. 

TIBBLES:  The pharmacist was exercising his right to refuse service on moral grounds. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Pharmacists should be able to step away, or to not participate in that activity that they find objectionable, but that the pharmacist should also support or set up an alternative system to make sure that the patient is served. 

TIBBLES:  The American Pharmacists Association says that pharmacist was obligated to refer Suzanne to another pharmacy. 

(on camera):  But while pharmacists are supposed to offer an alternative if they don‘t want to provide certain medications, all Suzanne Richards got was a lecture. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The way he made me feel, he really humiliated me and like he wasn‘t like shy about doing it. 

TIBBLES (voice-over):  And lecturing is out of bounds according to some bioethicists. 

LAURIE ZOLOTH, BIOETHICIST, NORTHWESTERN UNIV. MEDICAL SCHOOL:  That would be going really beyond what we normally think of as part of their conscientious objection.

TIBBLES:  No one knows exactly how often women are being refused certain prescriptions, but cases have been reported in at least 10 states.  Some organizations say pharmacists who supply condoms and Viagra for men but refuse to give women the pill are discriminating. 

MARCIA GREENBERGER, CO-PRES., NAT‘L WOMEN‘S LAW CENTER:  It‘s especially egregious when women aren‘t even allowed to fill their own prescriptions and when their lives and their health depend on those prescriptions being filled. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is that good? 

TIBBLES:  When Suzanne Richards presented a doctor‘s prescription, she never thought her right to fill it would be challenged. 

SUZANNE RICHARDS, PHARMACIST REFUSED TO FILL PRESCRIPTION:  I don‘t think anybody should make decisions for you or be lecturing you about them especially if they‘re supposed to be providing you something that they get paid for doing. 

TIBBLES:  A few states are considering laws that require pharmacists to put aside their own views...

RICHARDS:  Hold my hand, squeeze it tight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... and take away their right to refuse. 

Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  “My Take”—this is crazy.  While pharmacists certainly have the power, if not obligation, to say certain drug prescriptions are dangerous, for example, if taken together for certain medical reasons they should have no right to refuse a prescription simply based on religious beliefs.  Think about somebody who is Mormon working in a diner.  They‘re going to refuse to serve coffee or soda to a customer because their religion tells them not to drink caffeine themselves or a Jewish person serving pork.

I say pharmacists who make a religious rather than a medical decision in refusing to provide any drug should find another job.  But joining me now to debate is Lloyd Duplantis, a pharmacist who refuses to sell birth control at his pharmacy in Louisiana and former director of the National Institute of Health and senior health writer for “U.S. News & World Report”, Dr. Bernadine Healy.

All right.  Mr. Duplantis, what am I missing here?

LLOYD DUPLANTIS, PHARMACIST:  Well first off, we‘re not refusing—we‘re not against people practicing birth control.  We are not filling prescriptions, which can poison or kill women or children.  These are very dangerous drugs, and the lecturing that you are talking about in most cases is consultation that should be done in a proper fashion, and I can‘t speak for how other pharmacists speak, but we just speak with women about our concerns just as we do about concerns about any prescription, so this is not a religious issue.  This is a scientific fact that these drugs are dangerous and we are not going to give poisons to women. 

(CROSSTALK)

DUPLANTIS:  We have no problem with them controlling their fertility. 

We are not going to give them drugs. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

DUPLANTIS:  These are high-powered steroidal estrogenic and progestrogenic...

(CROSSTALK)

DUPLANTIS:  ... substances that are terrible for people to take in every case.

ABRAMS:  All right, just so I understand.  You don‘t provide them but you do provide lectures on why they‘re so bad, right?

DUPLANTIS:  We don‘t do lectures.  We do consultations...

ABRAMS:  Sorry...

DUPLANTIS:  ... that are very...

ABRAMS:  ... consultations...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But even though they‘re not asking for them you still provide them even though you‘re not providing the drugs.

DUPLANTIS:  Not necessarily.  If I don‘t have the drug in my pharmacy, I don‘t have it, but in other cases where a pharmacist may be asked why he doesn‘t fill it, he will have to consult with the lady and explain it to her. 

ABRAMS:  Dr. Healy, I mean this seems to me to be sort of revisionist medical assessment. 

DR. BERNADINE HEALY, FORMER NIH DIRECTOR:  Well, I think it‘s utterly absurd.  I mean first of all, it is demeaning.  It‘s intimidating.  It is insulting to women.  It is an absolute intrusion in a woman‘s privacy.  It is an interference with her relationship with the doctor, and some of the comments I have just heard are positively ridiculous from a scientific perspective. 

DUPLANTIS:  I‘m absolutely astounded a cardiologist would say something like that, ma‘am.  When you write a prescription for Coreg or for Altace or any drug and you have the wrong directions or wrong prescription amount I call you as a pharmacist, you trust that I am going to consult with your patient and with yourself, and we do the same thing for cardiologists as we do for OB-GYNs and for every form of practice...

(CROSSTALK)

DUPLANTIS:  Our prescriptions are done in that way.

ABRAMS:  Dr. Healy.

HEALY:  One thing if a pharmacist wants to consult with a physician, it is quite another thing to try and intimidate a patient.  The fact of the matter is that birth control pills are safe.  They have been on the market for 30 years or more...

DUPLANTIS:  And they‘ve been killing women for 30 years...

HEALY:  If you take that...

DUPLANTIS:  They have been destroying people. 

HEALY:  ... this is utter nonsense...

DUPLANTIS:  They‘ve been destroying people.

HEALY:  The fact is...

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Hang on a sec...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Mr. Duplantis, hang on.  Hang on.  One at a time...

HEALY:  Every drug is potentially dangerous...

ABRAMS:  Dr. Healy, go ahead.

HEALY:  Every drug is potentially dangerous and it is the obligation of the pharmacist, they usually provide written material which is standardized and it is for all medications which have risk, but to single out women, to single out birth control, to single out oral contraceptives, quite honestly, I think any pharmacist that wants to do this, any pharmacy, whether it‘s a big chain or a small corner drug store ought to have a big red sign which says this pharmacy does not respond to women‘s health needs. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

DUPLANTIS:  Well that‘s absolutely absurd because we are trying to respond.  We‘re trying to warn women about this terrible, dangerous drug...

(CROSSTALK)

DUPLANTIS:  ... that has killed more women...

ABRAMS:  Mr. Duplantis...

(CROSSTALK)

DUPLANTIS:  ... than any other chemical there is on the market. 

ABRAMS:  ... here‘s the problem.  I don‘t even know—I‘m not convinced you believe that.  I think and let me tell you and I‘ll let you respond...

DUPLANTIS:  You‘re not a chemist.  You‘re not a scientist either.

ABRAMS:  All right.  That‘s fine.  I am not.  I am not, but I‘ll tell you that I haven‘t seen anything medically that supports anything you are saying, but I‘ll let you respond. 

DUPLANTIS:  Well you‘re not reading the right literature...

ABRAMS:  All right.  All right...

DUPLANTIS:  ... because it‘s everywhere...

ABRAMS:  Well that‘s the question.

DUPLANTIS:  ... in all of the medical journals. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s the—yes, OK.  All right...

DUPLANTIS:  All the medical journals support what I‘m saying.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  No they don‘t...

DUPLANTIS:  All the medical...

(CROSSTALK)

DUPLANTIS:  ... information. 

ABRAMS:  Come on, that‘s just silliness...

DUPLANTIS:  The birth control packets...

ABRAMS:  Why don‘t you just admit...

DUPLANTIS:  ... on the prescription.

ABRAMS:  Mr. Duplantis, just admit this is about religion.  Just admit it...

DUPLANTIS:  It‘s absolutely...

ABRAMS:  Come clean.  Come clean. 

DUPLANTIS:  ... the only thing religious about this is the fact that because I have a moral conscience I want to help women and we want to call or question that saying that just like Vioxx and Seldane and Redux, all these drugs, and the fact that estrogen and this cardiologist knows that DVDs (ph) and the cardiovascular episodes that estrogen causes...

ABRAMS:  All right.

DUPLANTIS:  ... and birth control pills are way much more terrible than any hormone replacement therapy...

ABRAMS:  Do you sell Viagra?  Do you sell Viagra?

DUPLANTIS:  Absolutely. 

ABRAMS:  Really?

DUPLANTIS:  It‘s a different type drug all together. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  All right.  OK...

DUPLANTIS:  Without Viagra, people can‘t love each other.  With birth control...

(CROSSTALK)

DUPLANTIS:  ... it causes a barrier, which destroys relations. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Well...

DUPLANTIS:  It‘s a different thing all together.

ABRAMS:  OK.  Dr. Healy, let me ask you about the Pharmacists Association‘s position on this because I don‘t even understand why they don‘t take a harder stance on this.

Let me read you—“American Pharmacists Association recognizes the individual pharmacist right to exercise conscientious refusal and supports the establishment of systems to ensure patient‘s rights—patient‘s access to legally prescribed therapy without compromising the pharmacist‘s right of conscientious refusal.”

Why does the American Pharmacists Association even have a clause that allows for conscientious refusal?  I mean why not just say, look, you don‘t want to serve—you don‘t want to do what the doctors are prescribing, you don‘t want to prescribe certain drugs not for medical reasons, then don‘t be a pharmacist.

HEALY:  Any of us in the health profession have to remember that the patient is who we serve.  We are there for the patient.  Whatever our own personal views, we always have to suspend them when we are dealing in the best interest of a patient.  And by the way, birth control pills or any kinds of hormones, they are distributed for a whole range of things and quite frankly it is not the pharmacist‘s business for what specific reason they were prescribed. 

DUPLANTIS:  Well I beg to...

HEALY:  And in fact...

DUPLANTIS:  ... I beg to differ with you, Doctor...

HEALY:  ... women‘s lives are saved because...

DUPLANTIS:  ... but we have to know what you are prescribing...

HEALY:  ... women‘s lives are saved...

DUPLANTIS:  ... it for in order to be able to handle it properly.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Wait.  Wait...

HEALY:  Actually abortions are decreased...

(CROSSTALK)

HEALY:  I think that this is such an outrage, and you know right now the pharmacists are trying to move much more aggressively in the area of managing people‘s medication...

ABRAMS:  All right.

HEALY:  ... by consulting.  They want consultants‘ fees... 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Duplantis, you get the final 15 seconds.

HEALY:  ... and they‘re not deserving it. 

ABRAMS:  Final 15 seconds.

DUPLANTIS:  We are very concerned about women‘s health.  We want to continue to say that this is not a religious issue because we have moral consciences.  These are dangerous chemicals...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

DUPLANTIS:  ... that have killed more women than any other drug...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

DUPLANTIS:  ... in the history of the world and we‘re going to continue to say it because it‘s killing women...

ABRAMS:  Yes...

DUPLANTIS:  ... and their babies. 

ABRAMS:  I don‘t—yes, I don‘t buy it.  I don‘t...

DUPLANTIS:  Well you should...

(CROSSTALK)

DUPLANTIS:  ... read the right material. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I don‘t believe you...

DUPLANTIS:  And I‘m sorry that this is such a biased presentation that you...

ABRAMS:  No, it‘s not.  But look, I‘m being honest.  I want people to know...

DUPLANTIS:  No, you‘re being very biased...

ABRAMS:  Look, I am...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s not called biased.  It‘s called having an opinion...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  That‘s why I say it at the outset so there‘s no concern about me hiding anything.  I‘m laying it out there...

DUPLANTIS:  Well and I‘m not...

ABRAMS:  ... so people can decide for themselves. 

DUPLANTIS:  We are happy...

ABRAMS:  Lloyd Duplantis...

DUPLANTIS:  ... to continue to discuss it.  Thank you very much.

ABRAMS:  That‘s fine.  I appreciate you coming on the program. 

DUPLANTIS:  You‘re welcome.

ABRAMS:  And Dr. Healy, thanks for coming on as well.  I appreciate it.

DUPLANTIS:  You‘re welcome.

HEALY:  It‘s about women‘s health. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, moms beware, the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you‘re making for your children‘s bake sale could cost you a lot more than you think.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Smucker‘s says their peanut and jelly sandwiches are so special that they should be protected by a patent.  Come on.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—who knew you might have to pay to make a PB&J, and I‘m not talking about the five bucks for the tub of peanut butter and $3 for the jelly.  No, according to Smucker‘s, if you make the sandwich their way, you owe them a lot more than that.  Today a federal appeals court began considering the Smucker‘s Corporation‘s argument that it has a patent on what it considers innovative technology worthy of protection by the U.S. government. 

So, you ask, how has Smucker‘s so revolutionized the creation of America‘s favorite sandwich, such that they should get a piece of every sandwich you make?  Drum roll, please. 

(DRUM ROLL)

ABRAMS:  Smucker‘s puts peanut butter on both slices of bread and then puts the jelly in the middle to prevent the fruity spread from seeping onto the bread.  It then takes the crust off the bread and seals the sandwich to create the uncrustable.  That‘s what they call it.  That‘s it.  Yes, that‘s it. 

I guess that means that I am entitled to a patent for what I like to call Dan‘s grilled cheese.  I put a slice of American on one side, a slice of Swiss on the other, and then I wait to put on the tomato and lettuce until after it‘s grilled so the veggies don‘t get hot.  Come on.  What if the guy who first decided to add marshmallow fluff to the peanut butter sandwich thought he might be violating a patent?  There would be no such thing as a fluffernutter, and remember those Reese‘s peanut butter cup ads where the guy with the chocolate accidentally falls into the woman with the peanut butter and alas, a peanut butter emerges.  No patent there. 

Mind you, Smucker‘s arrogance over the uncrustable is not extending to claiming they invented PB&J, no they just perfected it.  Smucker‘s credits American GI‘s fighting in World War II with the idea of first mixing the two together.  Their legal case specifically targets Albie‘s Foods Inc., which also sells crustless PB&J in supermarkets.  So maybe the rest of us with an uncontrollable appetite for the uncrustable are safe. 

But lunch box lovers, be aware, stick to the basics.  Sloppy peanut butter on one side and jelly on the other, let it seep, let it soak.  Don‘t cut the crust off and whatever you do, don‘t try and sell it at a bake sale, that‘s a Smucker‘s sandwich, darn it.  If they hear about it, you could be stuck with more than peanut butter on the roof of your mouth.

Coming up in 60 seconds, your e-mails. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night I said I was shocked by remarks made on the Senate floor by Republican Senator John Cornyn, who questioned whether there may be some connection between the public‘s frustration over activist judges‘ political decisions and recent violence against judges.  He seemed to be placing some blame on our nation‘s judges with the most recent courthouse violence. 

David from Plymouth, New Hampshire, “I totally agree with the senator.  In fact, I thought the same thing myself and was not surprised about the recent events in Chicago.”  Oh yes, the judge had it coming to her, right David, have her husband and mother killed? 

From Portland, Oregon, Gabriel Morris, “I can barely believe what I am hearing coming from the halls of Congress.  These statements are beyond acceptable and irresponsible.  They are starting to look like veiled threats.”

Congressman John Culberson, a Republican from Texas, was on the program last night and said the judiciary has just become too political. 

Severin Carlson in Oregon, “How can Representative Culberson say that the judiciary is too political and to solve this problem we need to have retention elections of federal judges?  Last time I checked elections were the most political part of government.”

Finally, Evelyn Stoddard in Memphis, Tennessee, “Thanks for taking these guys on.  You are the absolute best host on any of the talk shows.  You always nail them to the wall.  Keep up the good work.”  Thanks, Evelyn. 

“OH PLEAs!” --  a Florida jogger caught with his bare necessities. 

Robert Register likes to jog in the morning with nothing weighing him down.  One modern Register was spotted running through his apartment complex, covered only by the early morning dew and wearing only his white sneakers.  A police officer tried to apprehend him, he took cover by a bush, emerged miraculously wearing a pair of blue running shorts but the shorts came up short. 

Police arrested Register for exposing himself in public.  He told officers quote—“that‘s the way I like to run.”   Yes, but it‘s not the way anyone else wants to see you run, Bobby.  Think about that for a moment.  A man running in his birthday suit, naked. 

That does it for us tonight.  Coming up, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  See you tomorrow.

END

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